Feds propose new offshore helicopter safety regulations

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Transport Canada announced Saturday its plan to introduce new regulations designed to increase safety for offshore helicopter operations.

A Cougar helicopter prepares to land.

In a news release, government said it would prohibit flights when weather or water conditions make ditching in water an unsafe choice. The proposed regulations would also require operators to have underwater breathing apparatus onboard for each passenger and require crews to wear water immersion survival suits.

“Our government is committed to strengthening aviation safety for all Canadians,” said Transport Canada Minister Lisa Raitt in the release. “We have worked closely with the aviation community to develop these new regulations, which will improve the safety of offshore helicopter operations for both passengers and crew.”

Lana Payne was underwhelmed by Saturday’s announcement. The Atlantic director for Unifor, which represents workers on the Terra Nova FPSO and the Hibernia oil platform, said the recommendations have already been implemented in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) was responsible for implementing those measures in the aftermath of the Cougar Flight 491 crash, an event that resulted in 17 deaths.

“Nothing in this statement from the minister is going to change one iota in terms of improving safety in the offshore, because most of its has been implemented,” said Payne.

Missing from current regulations in her view is the requirement for helicopters to have a 30-minute run-dry capability.

“The (Transportation Safety Board of Canada) was clearly recommending that would be the case. In fact, they said it should be a minimum of 30 minutes, and the gearboxes in these helicopters do not have that.”

A 30-minute run-dry capability would mean a helicopter has the ability to operate for 30 minutes without the benefit of having oil in its main gearbox.

The release did note that the federal government is working with U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency on international standards for the gearbox design of helicopters.

Payne said there remains a need for a stand-alone offshore safety agency as recommended by retired judge Robert Wells in the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry.

News of the proposed regulations comes on the heels of reports indicating that oil companies active in Newfoundland and Labrador are looking to change a ban on night flights for helicopters travelling offshore. The proposed change would allow flights to land at night shortly after dusk, amounting to an additional hour-and-a-half of flying time each day.

The C-NLOPB and oil companies placed a restriction on such flights following the Cougar Flight 491 crash.

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

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(Earlier story)

The federal government announced Saturday its plan to introduce new regulations designed to increase the safety of offshore helicopter operations.

In a news release, government said it would prohibit flights when weather or water conditions would make ditching in water unsafe, require operators to have underwater breathing apparatus onboard for each passenger, and require crews to wear water immersion survival suits.

“Our government is committed to strengthening aviation safety for all Canadians,” said Transport Canada Minister Lisa Raitt in the release. “We have worked closely with the aviation community to develop these new regulations, which will improve the safety of offshore helicopter operations for both passengers and crew.”

The federal government is also reportedly working with U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency on international standards for the gearbox design of helicopters.

This news comes shortly after it became public knowledge that oil companies active in Newfoundland and Labrador have been looking to change a ban on night flights for helicopters travelling offshore.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and oil companies placed a restriction on such flights following the crash of Cougar Flight 491, an event that resulted in 17 deaths.

For more on this story, check back later at thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Transport Canada, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, European Aviation Safety Agency Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board Cougar Flight 491

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • john
    November 24, 2013 - 20:22

    buying 2 more choppers would eliminate the need for nite flights. its all about not wanting to spend money

  • Herry
    November 19, 2013 - 12:16

    harper and the corruption party fail at everything !

  • Bill
    November 16, 2013 - 14:40

    In Gulf of Mexico, all rigs are evacuated when storms of significant nature develop. Though Operators and drilling companies off NL & NS will say their rigs and drillships are harsh environment types, it does not take into account human error. Also serious medical emergencies cannot be addressed. The personnel should be evacuated in my opinion.